Understanding Portable Breathalyzers & DUI Charges In Florida

How Do Breathalyzers Work?

Many drivers do not know much about breathalyzers and consequently, refuse them when asked by law enforcement. Based on the Implied Consent rule, driving on the roads in Florida is a privilege, and with it comes the rule that you will also consent to any tests for possible drunk driving or driving under the influence.


Types Of Breathalyzers

There are several types of portable breathalyzers that are used by the police officers in Florida. Portable devices are carried with officers for use on the road and more sophisticated machines are used at the police station.


How Does A Portable Breathalyzer Work?

The portable breathalyzer devices will read out the level of alcohol in your breath. What people need to understand is that this device is not measuring the level of alcohol in your blood, but in your breath. The device is designed in such a way that when you blow into the machine, it analyzes the concentration of alcohol in the expired air. To get an accurate reading, the officer may ask you to blow through a small disposable tube for 2-5 seconds, until you feel that you are not able to blow any more air out of your lungs. This ensures that all the air in the airways blows out and is analyzed. Remember, the air that is just around the throat/mouth will not have a high concentration of alcohol but the air in the bottom of the lungs will have a high concentration; and that is the reason why the officer will insist you blow hard for several seconds.

Once the officer feels that you are blowing hard, the device will be activated by the officer by pressing a button on the side of the device. This way the air in the deepest part of your lung is being analyzed, otherwise, the reading will not be accurate. If you were to just superficially blow in the breathalyzer tube, it may reveal that you have no alcohol even if you are severely drunk.


What Is Inside The Portable Breathalyzer Device?

The inside of the portable breath test machine contains a fuel cell and an electrochemical sensor that will react when it senses alcohol. The interaction of the alcohol with the fuel cell will generate a number that will be visually displayed on a small screen. In simple, the greater the amount of alcohol that reacts with the fuel cell, the higher the reading. This entire process only takes a few minutes. If the officer feels that you are not blowing hard, he or she may ask you to perform the test again. If you are extremely drunk and in no state to blow into the breathalyzer device, then you will be taken to the police station where a sample of your urine and blood will be obtained to assess for the level of alcohol.


Do Breathalyzers Fail?

Like any medical equipment, the portable breathalyzers can fail. The officer must regularly calibrate and maintain the device to ensure that the fuel cell is accurately reading the level of alcohol in the breath. All police departments have regulations that require law enforcement officers to frequently check their breathalyzers against a gas that contains a known level of alcohol so that they know what the reading should be. Criminal defense attorneys often debate the accuracy of breathalyzers in court, even when they were said to be calibrated.


What Other Breathalyzers Are Commonly Used?

Almost every police department has breathalyzers which are much different from the portable ones used on motorists. The breathalyzers at the police station are much larger, have more advanced electronics and are very accurate. Unlike the fuel cell inside the portable device, the machines at the police station use infrared spectroscopy to check for the presence of alcohol. The larger machines use infrared spectroscopy and measure the infrared radiation emitted by the alcohol molecules. With these machines, a standard known sample of alcohol is always run at the same time and your results are compared to the standard. The entire test does not take more than 5-10 minutes.


Contact An Experienced Florida DUI Attorney

If you’re facing a DUI charge, you should contact an attorney immediately. An experienced DUI and criminal defense attorney can walk you through the process, outline potential defenses, and fight for your rights in court. Contact a former state prosecutor and DUI defense attorney at Frost Law for a free consultation and review of your case. Call (407) 670-5569 today.

Chad Frost
Chad Frost
As a criminal defense attorney, he is proud to handle all kinds of criminal cases and committed to giving his clients the compassionate personal attention and aggressive representation they need to protect their rights and freedoms.